New York apartments are tiny. Everyone knows this. But because we live in the greatest city ever (objectively — no input required, thanks!) people from our hometowns always want to come stay with us. As transplants, we were in their shoes once. We probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the couch-lenders of our pasts. And so we pay it forward. It’s just what you do. Hotels cost too much.
There are several stages to every guest visit you will experience as a New York host. It is important to be aware of them so that when they occur, you know you are not a bad friend, cousin, daughter, or ex-coworker. Before we get started, you must remember: no matter how close you are with someone, all people have the capacity to be annoying. There are no exceptions.
The Stages of Hosting Tourists in Your New York Apartment
Stage 1: The Guilty Acquiescence
Your friend has just texted “Hey I’m coming up in 2 weeks! Can I stay with you?” and while that may be enough time to physically prepare, it is not enough to prepare emotionally for the amount of energy this is going to suck out of you. You miss your friend very much, but you remember the last time you had long-term visitors…that stain in the rug never did come out. Your first instinct is to say no. You want to tell them if they can’t afford to stay in a hotel then they just shouldn’t come to New York, but you know that is heartless and unreasonable, so you say yes. You begin resenting them prematurely for their week of free lodging, in your home for which you pay $60/day.
Stage 2: The Planning Stage
You’re starting to get excited about your friend’s visit. It’s been a while since you’ve seen them, or any friends for that matter, since you spend all your time working to afford to live here and “make your dreams come true,” whatever that means anymore. And when you’re not doing that, you’re sleeping. It’s not the City That Never Sleeps for the people who live here, ok? We have jobs. Anyway, in anticipation of your annual social interaction you start picking out the best restaurants, stores, sights, and activities you would never do with your city friends because no one’s schedule matches up, but that you want to make it seem like you do all the time. You start frantically googling “best rooftop pools” and pumping air into your bike tires. This is gonna be really fun!
Stage 3: The Prepping Stage
Not to be confused with the planning stage, the prepping stage is when you attempt to get your life together at the very last minute so that somehow, some way, you can find room for another person in it. You vacuum the rug, you wash your sheets (even though you’re just going to have to wash them again in a few days), and play Tetris with your furniture to figure out where the hell you’re going to put an air mattress. All miscellaneous items get stuffed into the back of your closet, if you’re lucky enough to have one. The OCD you’ve developed from living in tiny, mess-prone apartments starts to flare up, and you have to remind yourself that it’s only temporary, that you will only be without a walking path between the kitchen and the bathroom for a few days, and that most likely no one is going to step on your cat when they get up to pee in the night. At the very least, you reassure yourself, you will only have to tell your guest once that there are NO shoes allowed in the house, and that won’t be a problem because surely your friends are adults who don’t lose all sense of social norms the second they go on vacation. Right? You spend two whole days debating which would be less stress-inducing: giving your guest a key and trusting them to lock up your place which will definitely get robbed if they forget, OR waking up at dawn to let them in after nights of partying and forcing them to leave the house when you go to work. Speaking of work, you’re still trying to figure out what exactly they should do with themselves when their plane arrives smack in the middle of a workday. “Take a Lyft to my house. Not a cab, a Lyft. I will meet you there.” You request to leave work a few hours early.
Stage 4: The Party Stage
Your guest will be so excited to arrive that they won’t unpack any of their things at first, much to your relief. You set their suitcase in the corner of the room and let them gush about how cute your apartment is while you over-apologize for its small size and lack of amenities. They think you’re crazy because you have a decent apartment in — again — the greatest city literally ever, so you have nothing to be sorry for! You start to feel pretty good about yourself, and realize yeah, you are kind of living the dream. You have something to offer! You crack open the bottle of vodka you purchased just for this moment, and drink cocktails while catching up in your fabulous home. You have dinner at the trendy restaurant you reserved, then go out for more drinks and maybe hit a club or two. You hardly even go to clubs anymore because those got old really fast, but all the stereotypical, silly BS about your city has just become interesting and fun again. Your guest’s innocence has already rubbed off on you and you make some ill-advised decisions. Why are you on the subway with a group of strangers at 4AM heading the opposite direction of your apartment? It feels like that first month after you moved here all over again, when anything was possible. But you already know how that story ends, which brings us to our next stage.
Stage 5: Pushing Your Physical Limits
Now comes the hangover, but it’s not the kind where you can stay in and watch cable and order Chinese. Nope! Your guest doesn’t want to waste their precious vacation time. You’ve got sights to see and desserts to wait on line for, and more shopping and museums than you thought one person could absorb in a matter of days. You’re suddenly regretting all those attractions you bragged about over the phone but you know it would be wrong to try and talk them out of it, so you take one for the team. On less than 5 hours of sleep, you put on your best outfit and a full face of makeup, because “sightseeing” is just a another word for “photoshoot on location.” You then walk no less than 14 miles around the city you claim to love so much while trying not to complain. In truth, you’re seeing parts of town you wouldn’t otherwise, and you feel good about not wasting your weekend inside on your couch. You just wish you didn’t feel so shitty for all of it.
Stage 6: Wits End
By this point you’re personally done with drinking. You’ll have to go back to work soon if you haven’t already and this lifestyle is not going to cut it. Your guest has totally abandoned the façade of politeness they presented when they first got here, and now their shit is absolutely everywhere. God forbid the visitor is your sister or best friend, or they’ve been rummaging through your stuff too, and now there’s no telling where theirs ends and yours begins. You’re going to have a rage stroke if someone uses another one of your god damn towels. The garbage is overflowing and everything smells like cigarette smoke (they can afford to still be smokers because the packs in their town cost less than $14). You’re exhausted and they’ve been here a while, so you ask as politely as possible if they might want to do their own thing for the last day. But it comes out more like, “I honestly don’t have time for this, or for that matter, any money left. So how about you do you and just buzz me when you need to get in, ok? Oh and for the 50th time, can you PLEASE take your shoes off? I’m sorry I’m just so tired.”
Stage 7: The Goodbye Stage
Somehow, after spending what felt like months overrunning your personal space, your guest is able to fit their belongings back into their bags. You didn’t even notice them packing because you were still asleep. For some reason, every time anyone visits New York they leave on an 8AM flight, which means they have to leave your house, that is, wake you up, at the ass-crack of dawn to say goodbye. You put on your slippers, walk their suitcases down the stairs, and wait with them in the vestibule for their Lyft which will take 15 minutes or some equally ungodly amount of time to arrive. You hug your guest and wish them safe travels. You tell them you hope they had a wonderful visit and to “come back any time, really” though that last part doesn’t sound very convincing through your yawn. You go back to bed, and when you wake up they’re gone. It’s like they were never here, except that they used all your fucking toilet paper. And then you miss them. You realize how much having them here really grounded you and reminded you of your past. You feel a little empty inside without them.
Stage 8: Recovery
As you slide back into your daily routine and stretch out into your personal space again, you can finally breathe and reflect on all the fun you’ve had. You post pictures on social media to show everyone how effortless and carefree it all was. You do your laundry, clean your floors, ignore your bank account. Finally, you text your guest that you miss them already. “Next time,” you say, “I’ll come to you.”